Better Than Drugs: Adopt a Pet

 In Your Health

A few months ago, my mother decided to adopt a cat. She took her mother—my grandma—along with her to pick one from the litter. After settling on her favorite snuggly friend, my grandma surprised everyone by selecting one herself. My mom was worried; after all, my grandma requires extensive care for her recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease. But grandma insisted.

“Big Boy” lounges on the front porch

She still sometimes asks, “who is that?!” when the kitty meanders through her kitchen, but it’s more likely that we will find her rocking in her armchair with the creature sleeping in her arms.

Despite this cat’s sharp little claws and feisty spirit, she brings joy and calm to my grandma. Spending time with pets has this effect; it releases oxytocin, the cuddle hormone. This, in turn, lowers cortisol, the stress hormone. High levels of cortisol in the long term can lead to grim health outcomes. The kitten also keeps her from being lonely when my grandpa is at work.

Dogs carry the added benefit of encouraging their owners to walk outside. Not only is this heart healthy, but it carries the potential for increased social interaction with neighbors.

Thinking of getting a pet?

Paws Atlanta offers a service called Seniors4Seniors. Through the Grey Muzzle Organization and the PEDIGREE Foundation, adoption fees are waived for older adults (55+) who would like to adopt an older pup (7+). Paws Atlanta believes that “every senior dog deserves to live out their golden years in a place of love, security and peace.”

If you are not ready to adopt, you have the option to foster a pet for a specific period of time. This allows the shelter to take in more animals, while allowing you the joy of companionship. Call (770) 593-1155 if you are interested in learning more.

Unable to take on the responsibility of owning a pet?

That’s ok! Just petting a friend’s or family member’s pet can lower your blood pressure. Offer to take them on a walk or pet them by the fireplace.

You can also contact your local shelter to volunteer with the animals. Most shelters would be extremely appreciative of the extra hands.

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